As part of applications for study visas, students using the fast-track study permit Student Direct Stream were required to pay for a full year of study up front, as well as a Guaranteed Investment Certificate of CAN$10,000.
“If I tried to withdraw, I would not get refunded for my two semesters which is $16,000”
However, some of these students have been waiting for long periods of time to have their applications processed – including one who has been waiting since March 2020.
A number of students told The PIE News that they are unable to withdraw their applications, to either re-apply or apply to other countries, as their institutions require that they receive a student visa refusal from IRCC.
If the students withdraw without this, their colleges hold back large sums of money – something the students say they can’t afford. They told The PIE that they feel trapped as their applications are not being either refused or accepted and so affordable refunds are not possible.
“I have completed my two semesters, and if I tried to withdraw, I would not get refunded for my two semesters which is $16,000,” one student who is studying online at Hanson College in Ontario told The PIE.
“If my visa application is refused I will be given a refund minus $500 which is the offer letter fee and labour fees. But I put in my application in October 2020 and still have had no response from IRCC,” they said.
The student said they believe IRCC is processing more recent applications and that their application has got stuck in a backlog.
“So if I tried to drop my application and reapply for the same college, to get out of the backlog, I would not get my refund,” the student added.
Hanson College was contacted by The PIE but did not respond by the time of publication.
Other students told The PIE that they had been waiting for extended periods of time for IRCC to answer queries around their visa applications.
“I applied for a Canada study visa in March 2020. I and many other students have been waiting for a long time. But IRCC is not taking us seriously. They are giving results to new files instead of old files,” one told The PIE.
The PIE contacted IRCC for comment but has not yet received a response.
Another student told The PIE that the visa delays would prevent him from transferring to a college in another country.
“If I get a visa rejection I will get a refund but my college will deduct $250,” the student, who is enrolled at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, said.
“But if I get sick of waiting and I want to apply in the UK, US or any other country in the world they will deliberately deduct $2,200 and the remaining amount will be given to me in more than 60 days.”
Asked whether he could afford such a deduction, the student said he could not and that it would put his family in a precarious financial situation.
“My father is a farmer and he sold his land. He also took out a loan on our house where we live. So now my house is mortgaged by the bank and my father has been paying interest since the April 30,” he said.
A spokesperson for the college told The PIE that since the beginning of the pandemic, Mohawk College has supported international students who begin their studies virtually while their visa is being processed.
“If I get sick of waiting and I want to apply in the UK, US or any other country in the world they will deliberately deduct $2,200”
They provided information that showed that if a student withdraws before October 10, they will only have to pay a $250 fee.
However, if a student withdraws between October 10 and December 11 they will have $2,200 deducted from their refund. After December 11 they will not be eligible for a refund of any fees.
“Students studying under this pending visa approval status are provided with a unique refund procedure which they receive as an attestation during the Admissions process,” the spokesperson said.
“This refund procedure gives students the opportunity to receive a refund of their fees (less mandatory non-refundable fees) for the majority of the semester if their visa application is denied.
“When students receive a decision on their application, they must advise our services team so that they can begin the process to withdraw the student. The student is required to complete additional documentation confirming their intent to withdraw before any refunds can be processed,” they added.
IRCC sent the following response to The PIE on Thursday, 16 September:
The pandemic has had a significant impact on Canada’s immigration system, and we understand the frustrations of applicants at this difficult moment.From March to October 2020, travel restrictions prevented most international students from travelling to Canada, even if their study permit application was finalised and approved.
With reduced processing capacity during the pandemic, IRCC prioritised finalising applications for those who were exempt from the travel restrictions at the time, such as family members of Canadians and agricultural and health-care workers.After travel restrictions for students changed in October 2020, IRCC has prioritised study permit applications from prospective students whose designated learning institution (DLI) had a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by their province or territory.
When the list was introduced, fewer than half of the DLIs in Canada had a COVID-19 readiness plan. Since then, the list has been updated every 2 weeks and the number of DLIs on it has grown, with about 75% of active DLIs now on the list of DLIs with approved COVID-19 plans. IRCC has continued to accept and process study permit applications throughout the pandemic to the extent possible.
During the pandemic, IRCC has generally not refused incomplete applications. While we have announced that this measure is changing, many of the applications in IRCC’s processing inventory are incomplete. We can’t finalise these applications until applicants are able to provide biometrics, immigration medical examinations, police certificates or other missing documents.
Earlier this year, IRCC committed to processing, by August 6, complete study permit applications that were received by May 15. Nearly 29,000 study permit applications were identified as part of this commitment. Of those, only 80 were not yet processed as of August 6. Applications that were incomplete or that required additional information were not part of IRCC’s processing commitment.
We’re processing complete applications submitted after May 15, 2021, as quickly as possible. Some applications take longer to process, such as those that are incomplete or require the officer to request more information from the applicant.Students may also begin or continue their studies from abroad, if their designated learning institution offers online learning.
As a facilitative measure, those who were approved for, or applied for, a study permit for a program starting between March 2020 and fall 2021 could study online from abroad, up to December 31, 2021, with that time recognised for an applicant’s eligibility for a post-graduation work permit in the future.As of August 2021, IRCC had processed close to 370,000 study permit applications, a significant increase when compared to the same period last year when about 100,000 study permits applications where processed.